School subjects

Reviews | Connect School Subjects to Real Life to Spark Curiosity | Opinion

Waking up at 7 a.m. to go to class and start working on mundane exercises you can’t relate to, taking work home, and shaping your day around the schedules other people have set. Regardless of what is taught, our imposed habits and attitudes around school are already a bit dark. American education prepares us more for the tougher parts of a 9 to 5 than for the ability to be curious people while we’re at it.

It’s a common complaint to hear that American K-12 doesn’t prepare people for real life. Although I love algebra, it’s easy to see why most people don’t think about it every day. In reality, I would have been much better suited to adulthood having learned to cook for myself or pay taxes instead.

To think that these things are mutually exclusive would be short sighted. Traditional core subjects like chemistry, calculus, and language arts have all sorts of connections to our daily lives. Learning to cook can probably teach you all of these things at once if you pay enough attention.

So why don’t we strike these two birds with one learned stone?

Unfortunately, only a handful of people tasked with making this decision have actually entered high school in the past 50 years. K-12 learning standards are written by the Ohio Department of Education and influenced by the state’s Congress, and large-scale partnerships with testing companies like Pearson and CollegeBoard put the teachers in a corner. Schools are “testing” more than ever, and students are not interested.

We need to find a way to protect the quality of education while enabling exciting experiments led by creative teachers, not politicians. By leaving this public service in inexperienced hands, we leave students in the crossfire of political attacks and industry lobbyists. If teachers and their students had a say in what to learn, we wouldn’t have ideas like Ohio’s “Divisive Concepts” bill.

The content we discuss in class is myopic and abstract at best, and racist and politically motivated at worst. Forget the oath of allegiance, anyone who has opened an American history textbook can tell you that the way we teach in this country has a notable point of view.

The fact is, American public school teachers often don’t have the autonomy to create engaging and relevant lessons that connect their subjects to different parts of everyday life. If we can create space for these kinds of ideas in our state curriculum, we may live to see a day when most Americans don’t feel like their math class was a waste of time.

Public education is a human right. Access to general knowledge like the scientific method, the alphabet, and reading a chart are essential to participating in the modern American world. But it is not enough to open the doors of the school and let the pupils enter for free. Our school programs need to meet students where they are, put them in engaging situations, and truly prepare them for the rest of their lives.